It was very refreshing for us to report last week on the 10-year anniversary of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's Global Operations Center in Wheeling. The center has become a model of success within the legal industry and should serve as a template moving forward for how redevelopment in Wheeling can work.
According to Orrick officials, the center, located in the former Wheeling Stamping Building, currently employs 350 workers - with more to come. Firm Chief Executive Officer Ralph Baxter said ingenuity and hard work on the part of local employees have led to continued growth from the 70 jobs that started in Wheeling in 2002.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is an international law firm with 20 offices and 1,200 lawyers located around the world. The Wheeling operations center serves as a global hub for all of the firm's back-office operations, primarily providing support services to attorneys.
"If a function does not need to be done where we practice law, we move it" to Wheeling, Baxter said. Some of those functions are network operations, finance and software support.
Orrick took a chance when it located in Wheeling, receiving criticism from many in the legal realm. But Baxter said the firm found a welcome community here that rolled out the red carpet while providing substantial cost savings to Orrick.
Not only did city leaders go above and beyond with Orrick - then-Mayor Nick Sparachane made a personal visit in 2001 to Baxter's office in San Francisco just to say hello - but several local churches got involved. The Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. played a major role, as did the Regional Economic Development Partnership and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise.
To make the deal happen, those organizations pooled together $10 million to rehabilitate the former Stamping building, which literally was days from being torn down. The end result has been a successful reuse of the structure.
"This was truly a community project," Baxter said of the center.
We believe it's time for local development officials and city leaders to publicly identify the next community project - one that will yield real results, not just a sports practice field. Too long has passed since the last big community project. What are we waiting for?